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Building Technician

building technician

Building Technician

 

Tell me about it

Building technicians, also known as construction estimators or site engineers, are the essential link between management and the labour force in constructing buildings and building works. Operating at a level between craftspeople and managers, they also provide practical support for professional engineers, surveyors, managers and accountants.

The work involves detailing all the items needed for a contract - equipment, plant, materials and labour - and their costs. Each job is costed in detail to arrive at an overall price that will both win the contract and make a profit. Working from the architect's drawings, technicians price all the materials, then contact suppliers and sub-contractors for quotations of costs and delivery times. They then check all materials and equipment when they are delivered on-site.

Building technicians also advise on possible amendments to plans, work as site engineer, measure and prepare a site for construction, supervise craft workers and operatives on site, and co-ordinate the programme of work. They are responsible for safety precautions and for the timing and progress of the work.

Entry level

A possible entry route for training as a building technician is via a construction apprenticeship. To get on to an apprenticeship, you may need GCSEs (grades A*-C) in subjects like maths, English and design and technology, or equivalent vocational qualifications like the diploma in Construction and the Built Environment  or the BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Construction. You could also study for higher level qualifications, for example the BTEC Higher National Certificate or Diploma in Construction. If you are planning to take a construction-related degree course, you may be able to obtain financial support through the ConstructionSkills Inspire scholarship scheme. 

It is also possible to train in craft skills, such as bricklaying or plumbing, through the apprenticeship programme and continue to train to be a technician.

Making the grade

Once you are employed in this field, you could take a range of work-based National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), such as Construction Site Supervision Level 3, Construction Site Management Level 4, or Construction Contracting Operations at levels 3 and 4.

The Association of Building Engineers offers a similar range of NVQs.

Another way to develop your career would be by taking qualifications in Site Supervision and Site Management offered by the Chartered Institute of Building. Courses include the Level 3 Diploma in Site Supervisory Studies and the Level 4 Certificate and Diploma in Site Management.

Personal qualities

As a building technician, you should have a thorough knowledge of building techniques and materials, be aware of health and safety legislation and practice, and know the legal requirements of building and construction.

You would need to be a practical person with a logical and sensible approach to problem solving.  In order to be successful you would need to learn a considerable amount of technical information about the building industry and also gain some knowledge of law and health and safety issues.  Your job is likely to involve computers, so you would need to be computer literate. 

In order to deal with a large variety of people, you would need good communication skills. You might, for example, be negotiating with construction professionals or supervising workers on a building site. In either case you would need to make yourself clearly understood.  You are also likely to be involved with interpreting plans and with making calculations based on the information you are given.  You may need to organise your own work and that of others and you should be able to work on your own initiative.

Looking ahead

There are opportunities to work for local and central government, for large building contractors and for large organisations that have property portfolios, such as hotel chains or major retailers. The demand for technicians depends to a great extent on the state of the construction industry and the picture in 2011 is no more than moderately encouraging, as the market slowly recovers from the severe downturn of 2008-10. Forecasts suggest that demand for homes and industrial, office, retail and leisure facilities will eventually pick up again. You may choose to change employers and job roles over time in order to gain the experience necessary to develop your career and perhaps set up your own business.

Alternative suggestions

Other possibilities might include architectural technologist, building control surveyor, civil engineering technician, clerk of works/site manager, construction manager, estate agent, quantity surveyor or surveyor.


Take-home pay

Salaries for building technicians vary between companies and between different parts of the country.  A trainee could expect to earn around £14,500 to £16,500, rising on qualification to £20,000 to £25,000. Some technicians earn more than £30,000 as they become more experienced.  There are also allowances for working on site and sometimes travel expenses are reimbursed.

Effects

The standard working week is 37 to 40 hours, but building technicians often have to work overtime in the evening and at weekends. Sometimes it is necessary to live temporarily away from home, or move permanently to different areas of the country.

You would often be office based, but you may have to make site visits when overseeing building preparations and supervising workers. Construction sites can be dirty, dusty and noisy. Technicians may have to climb ladders and scaffolding or go underground. Safety gear, including boots and hard hats, are worn on site at all times.

Sources of information

Apprenticeships: www.apprenticeships.org.uk
ConstructionSkills: www.cskills.org
Association of Building Engineers: www.abe.org.uk
Chartered Institute of Building: www.ciob.org.uk
Engineering Construction Industry Training Board: www.ecitb.org.uk.
Institute of Clerks of Works: www.icwgb.org  


 

 

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